News Flash – 19 July 2018

National News



124-ton additional load led to Andheri bridge collapse, finds probe


Mumbai: Two weeks after the pedestrian portion of Gokhale bridge in Andheri collapsed, killing a 35-year-old woman and injuring four others, the report of the commissioner of railway safety (CRS) has revealed how the railways and the BMC played with the safety of citizens by compromising on the bridge’s design load. The report says the structure had deep corrosion and an additional load of 124 tons (44%). The cantilever bridge collapse on July 3 brought the Western Railway’s suburban services to a grinding halt for hours. CRS western circle Sushil Chandra has, in his report, termed it a “failure of the railway staff and others”. Blaming the civic body, the report says, “The failure of the ROB pathway was contributed by the additional load of various cables, sand, paver blocks etc. provided by the BMC without prior permission from WR. The additional load was not considered at the time of the original design”. According to the report, the total dead load (weight of the structure) as per the General Arrangement Drawing (GAD), including the water pipe, was 279.5 tons, comprising 166.4 tons of RCC slab (including telephone cables, precast cover over ducts, electric poles). Chandra noted that the bridge had an additional load of 124 tons comprising wet sand, paver blocks and load of additional cables and ducts. “The cantilever footpath was subjected to 44.4% more than the design load on the pathway.


There was an increase in bending movement by 37.6% and shear force by 31% due to the additional load,” the report says. The CRS found that the south-end of the bridge had 104 additional cables and conduit pipes were laid on the footpath. “The cables were carried through the concrete haunch of 1.2 m width and 220 mm thickness at the edge of the footpath…The cables pipes casing of PVC/GI having diameter of 250mm were passing through the bridge laid between deck slab and the paver blocks,” the report says. The CRS pointed out: “Rainwater was not getting drained properly from the road surface and footpath surface. During the inspection, I saw choked/ overflowing and damaged/corroded valley gutter”. BMC officials did not depose before the CRS. SO Korri, BMC chief engineer (bridges), told TOI they pay the railways for the maintenance of the bridge whenever there has been a request. “The bridge maintenance does not fall under us,” he said. WR’s chief PRO Ravinder Bhakar said, “We will offer our remarks on the preliminary findings and based on the final report, will take necessary action as per the recommendations”.



Intel: Khalistani terrorists on way to attack Parliament


New Delhi: Central and New Delhi districts have been put under a multi-layer security blanket after a specific terror input received by intelligence agencies that two Khalistani terrorists are headed towards Delhi in an explosive-laden car with an Uttar Pradesh registration number to attack Parliament House. Sources said that the terrorists — Lakhwinder Singh and Parminder Singh — are travelling from the Nepal border in a white Innova (UP26 AR 24**). The input suggests the men are in their late 40s and trained in assembling IEDs. The input has been given the highest priority because it has come from two sources. Apart from the agency, an anonymous caller shared an almost similar tip with Delhi Police. The informer identified himself as one Iqbal calling from the number 75349071**, an officer in New Delhi district confirmed. The number was tracked to Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand. A team has been sent there to verify details. The alert has come at a time when agencies had alerted that a stolen car or a government vehicle could be used by terrorists as vehicle-borne IED in the run-up to I-Day celebrations. Officials said the two names mentioned by the informer are similar to two suspects wanted in the November 2016 Nabha jailbreak of Punjab.


“The people named are close associates of Nabha jail escapee and self-styled chief of Khalistan Liberation Force, Harminer Singh Mintoo, who died of cardiac arrest in April. He had the backing of Pak spy agency ISI and had been motivating youths to join terrorism. A man named Lakhwinder was also the close associate of the slain gangster and another Nabha escapee Vicky Gounder. We are verifying if these men are the same ones,” a security official said. Khalistani terrorists not only in India, but in countries like Italy, Australia, UK and Germany have been accused of hatching plots to carry out strikes in Punjab and other parts of the country, apart from planning killings of BJP and RSS leaders. “British national Jagtar Singh Johal had planned to kill RSS leader Ravinder Gosain and several others after he met Mintoo in France in 2013. Others like Harmeet Singh alias PhD (based in Lahore), Gurjinder Singh (Italy), Gurjant Singh (Australia) are also involved in anti-India activities,” an intelligence official said.



8 dead in Noida rubble, youngest a baby


Noida: Almost 24 hours into the grim search through layers of concrete rubble, a hushed silence fell on Shahberi around 9pm on Wednesday. For a few moments, grief took complete control, even of the seasoned rescuers, who had just pulled out a baby from under the rubble. The girl, just 18 months old, was dead. The baby was the eighth victim they had been able to reach after a complex search that involved taking sniffer dogs and life-detector devices through a maze of debris at the site of the double building collapse in the Noida Extension village. Iron rods and concrete chunks had pierced some of the bodies while some were discovered sandwiched between slabs of concrete. More people remain trapped under the debris — the exact number could not be determined — and rescuers said they expected the death toll to rise. Ganga Shankar Dwivedi, the developer of the building under construction that triggered the twin collapse on Tuesday night, was arrested along with three brokers, Sanjeev Kumar, Dinesh and Sonu Pathak. Police said Salim, the developer of the other building which, according to local residents, was inhabited by 7-8 families, was absconding. Noida police chief Ajay Pal Sharma said primary investigation showed the land was registered in the name of Dwivedi. “He roped in other brokers to sell the flats,” he said. Dwivedi and Salim’s aides and others involved in marketing and selling the apartments were among 24 people booked in an FIR filed at Bisrakh police station. All of them have been charged with culpable homicide (not amounting to murder) and other sections of IPC.


Among those killed in the disaster are Shamshad, Shiv Kumar Trivedi and his sister-in-law Priyanka (all in their 20s), Shiv’s mother Raj Kumari Devi (in her sixties), Priyanka’s 18-month-old daughter Pankhuri, and Ranjit (45). Two more men found dead are yet to be identified. While the UP government has ordered a probe, to be headed by the additional DM, initial findings show the use of substandard material and a weak foundation may have been the cause of the collapse. The two six-storey buildings stood next to each other, with a five feet road between them. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh compensation to families of those dead and Rs 50,000 for those injured. The rescue operation is being conducted by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), which has deployed 160 personnel at the site. They are being assisted by Greater Noida project engineers and other staff. ADG (Meerut) Prashant Kumar, who was in Shahberi on Wednesday, said the rescue operation would be completed only by Thursday morning. “We are investigating if the developer had received NoC from the concerned Authority. Prima facie, we have found massive irregularities in the construction of the buildings,” Kumar said.



Transport department to issue e-challans from Aug 1


New Delhi: Taking a cue from Delhi Traffic Police, the enforcement wing of Delhi government’s transport department will start issuing e-challans instead of manual challans from August 1. The department has already procured 60 handheld devices to issue the e-challans, which, they claim are better than what the traffic cops have. The enforcement wing has about 200 personnel and these devices will be provided to each of the 60 teams in which the wing’s manpower is divided. Since these devices are linked to the central database of the transport department, they can also act as POS machines that can accept fines through credit or debit cards. It also has a portable printer attached to it, and can issue a challan on the spot. “The device also has a camera, which will take the picture of the driver and vehicle that is found violating norms. This will then get saved in our database,” a transport department official said. “As soon as a challan is issued, an SMS would be sent to the vehicle’s owner through our server,” he added. According to the official, this move will bring in more transparency in the process of prosecution of vehicles violating the Motor Vehicles Act. “We have gone for the latest device available in the market and these are state-of-the-art machines that are technologically more advanced than the devices being used by the traffic police,” he said.


In 2017, the transport department’s enforcement wing had issued more than 2.3 lakh challans by prosecuting nearly 1.7 lakh vehicles. A majority of the vehicles fined — nearly 65,000 — were found polluting the air or didn’t have a valid ‘pollution under control’ certificate. Apart from polluting vehicles, overloaded vehicles, illegal buses, unregistered e-rickshaws, etc., were also prosecuted. Apart from ensuring transparency and curbing corruption, the biggest advantage of these ‘smart’ devices would be in identifying and prosecuting repeat offenders. “Our officials would be able to verify the antecedents of a vehicle owner by entering the registration number of his car in the device. As a result, officials would be able to find out on the spot if the vehicle has been involved in a similar offence earlier,” the official said. “This is important because the Motor Vehicles Act has stringent provisions against repeat or compoundable offences,” he added. Apart from the handheld devices, officers of the enforcement wing would soon be armed with body cameras. The department plans to issue these cameras so that the interaction between an offender and the enforcement personnel can be live streamed to the department’s control centre in real time. This would help in weeding out corruption in the process, the official said.



Two bodies, wrecked trawlers found; 17 fishermen still missing


Kolkata: A Coast Guard Dornier on Wednesday located an upturned trawler while looking for 19 fishermen in three missing vessels, from Kakdwip and Namkhana in South 24-Parganas. The trawler was located far from its last known location. There is no trace of one trawler while the wreck of another was found next to a fisherman’s body near Jambudwip. The fishermen community is losing hope after the recovery of Muktipada Karan’s body some five km from Jambudwip. Karan was a fisherman from Namkhana who had ignored adverse weather condition warnings, hoping for a better catch. Floating next to his body was whatever remained of F B Molleswar, the trawler he was on. Later in the evening, some fishermen who started rescue operations on their own spotted another body several kilometres from Jambudwip. “We have been searching for the trawlers since Tuesday. Our initial operation was launched in an area where the trawlers were last known to be located. We gradually extended the grid despite bad weather conditions and finally located the upturned trawler nearly 30km south of Dalhousie Island. The Dornier crew did not spot any bodies. While our hovercraft is carrying out searches closer to the coast, the offshore patrol vessel — Indian Coast Guard Ship Sujoy — handed it over to trawlers for towing to a fishing harbour.


No survivors have been found, but our search is on,” an official said. The Coast Guard is not holding out much hope about the missing fishermen. A source said there is a possibility of some bodies remaining trapped under the trawler. The remaining trawler could have capsized or drifted further away. In the absence of any positioning system or locator on board, all now depends on physical surveillance. According to South 24 Parganas district magistrate Y Ratnakar Rao, the upturned trawler spotted by the Coast Guard is probably the F B Joy Kishan. There were 16 fishermen on this trawler, of whom six were rescued by others. A Coast Guard official pointed out that rescue operations could have been more effective had the proper locations of the trawlers been known. Meanwhile, the fisheries department has requested the Coast Guard to send adverse weather condition reports to its officials in advance to help monitor the movement of trawlers. Bijon Maity, joint secretary of West Bengal United Fishermen’s Association, said: “We have issued life jackets, but most fishermen refuse to wear them on trawlers”.



TN dialysis patients at high risk of contracting hepatitis


Chennai: All patients undergoing treatment at a dialysis unit in the state have tested positive for hepatitis and none of them was aware of their status, a recently-published study undertaken to find the prevalence of the infection in Tamil Nadu found. Of the 23 dialysis patients at the unit, four tested positives for hepatitis B, while 19 (82.6%) tested positive for the more severe hepatitis C infection, the study found. The study, published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, concluded that prevalence of hepatitis B (HBV) in the general population was 1.63% and hepatitis C (HCV) was 0.30% in the general population — a figure lesser than what the World Health Organization’s estimate of 2% and 0.5% respectively. However, the team argues that risk percentages were extremely high in a select group of people and certain living environments. “While in the general population the prevalence of both HBV and HCV is about 1.93%, it is 5.05% in the slums. We held three camps in slums and screened more than 300 people, of this 16 were tested positive for hepatitis. While one of them had HCV, the rest carried HBV,” said liver transplant surgeon Dr Vivekanandan Shanmugam, who is the corresponding author of the study.


“People are not aware that hepatitis, like HIV/AIDS, can spread through bodily fluids or unsafe sex. Sharing razors during a shave or sharing needles can cause the infection. In dialysis units, the infections can spread quickly if separate machines are not used for people with infection,” he said, calling for a massive awareness programme. In 2014, at least 16 people undergoing treatment at the Government Stanley Medical College and Hospital in Chennai were tested positive for hepatitis. Some of them died. Hepatitis or inflammation of the liver drastically alters or affects its function. Besides dialysis units and slums, high prevalence was seen in children living in the orphanages. “Most of these children were probably born to parents who were infected. At least 3.5% of children in orphanages were tested positive,” said liver transplant surgeon Hemalatha Varadan, who was part of the study. Most infants with the infection have it for life. “It is hence extremely important for a robust vaccination and awareness programme,” said senior gastroentric surgeon Dr RP Shanmugam, who founded the Chennai Liver Foundation.





WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE: Unabated rain over the past few days have badly affected normal life in Kottayam, Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Idukki districts in Kerala. A family at Thadambattuthazam trying to drain the water that entered their house. The Met has predicted more rains in the next four-five days that may advance towards the northern part of the state.



International News



‘It was magical’: Thailand’s cave boys relive moment of discovery by divers

TOTAL RECALL: In their first public appearance after the ordeal, the boys and their coach described how they took turns to dig at the cave walls with stones and survived on water dripping from stalactites.



Chiang Rai (Thailand): The 12 boys and their football coach rescued from a cave in Thailand recounted details of their ordeal on Wednesday, at their first public appearance, during which they waved, smiled and offered traditional “wai” greetings on a national broadcast. Doctors, relatives and friends greeted the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their coach (25). ‘Bringing the Wild Boars Home,’ read a banner in Thai to welcome them on the set. “I told everyone fight on, don’t despair,” said one boy, describing how the group had battled to stay alive during the days spent in the cave in Chiang Rai. Another, Adul Samon, 14, recalled the moment when two British divers found the group on July 2. “It was magical,” he said. “I had to think a lot before I could answer their questions”. The order in which the boys left the cave did not depend on their health, said coach Ekkapol Chantawong, whose efforts have been credited by some parents with keeping the boys alive. “The ones whose homes are the furthest went first, so they could tell everyone that the boys were fine,” he added. “We took turns digging at the cave walls,” he said. “We didn’t want to wait around until authorities found us”. One of the boys added, “We used stones to dig in the cave. We dug 3 to 4 metres.” But their efforts were to no avail, Ekkapol said, adding, “Almost everyone can swim. Some aren’t strong swimmers, however”. The group, which had eaten before going into the caves, took no food on a cave excursion that had been intended to last only an hour, and had to subsist on water dripping from stalactites in the cave, he added. “We only drank water,” said one of the boys, nicknamed Tee. “On the first day we were OK, but after two days we started feeling tired”.


The team’s youngest member, who goes by the name Titan, added, “I had no strength. I tried not to think about food so I didn’t get hungrier.” Thoughts of their parents also preoccupied the boys, with one admitting, “I was afraid. That I wouldn’t go home and I would get scolded by my mother”. The boys, who return home on Wednesday, apologised for being naughty, admitting to having told their parents only that they were going to practice, but not about the plans to go into the cave. The boys had gained 3kg each on average since the rescue, and ran through confidence-building exercises ahead of Wednesday’s event, said hospital director Chaiwetch Thanapaisal. “We don’t know what wounds the kids are carrying in their hearts,” said justice ministry official Tawatchai Thaikaew, who asked for the boys’ privacy to be respected after the discharge. Two of the boys also held up a framed sketch of Samarn Kunan, 38, the former Thai navy diver who died during rescue efforts. Everyone was very sad,” said Ekkapol, adding that the boys would spend time as novice Buddhist monks to honour the diver’s memory. “They felt like they were the reason he had to die and his family had to suffer”.



EU fines Google $5.1bn over Android antitrust violations


Brussels: EU antitrust regulators hit Google with a record 4.34 billion euro ($5 billion) fine on Wednesday and ordered it to stop using its Android mobile operating system to block rivals, a ruling which the US tech company said it would appeal. The penalty is nearly double the previous record of 2.4 billion euros which the US tech company was ordered to pay last year over its online shopping search service. It represents just over two weeks of revenue for Google parent Alphabet Inc. and would scarcely dent its cash reserves of $102.9 billion. But it could add to a brewing trade war between Brussels and Washington. Google’s parent company Alphabet said in a regulatory filing it would accrue the fine in the second quarter of 2018. Google CEO Sundar Pichai warned that the Android business model of not charging for use of the technology or having a tightly controlled distribution model like rival Apple may change as a result of the EU ruling. “We are concerned that today’s decision will upset the careful balance that we have struck with Android, and that it sends a troubling signal in favour of proprietary systems over open platforms,” Pichai said in a blog. EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager’s boss, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, is due to meet Trump at the White House next Wednesday in an effort to avert threatened new tariffs on EU cars amid Trump’s complaints over the US trade deficit.


Vestager also ordered Google to halt anti-competitive practices with smartphone makers and telecoms providers within 90 days or face additional penalties of up to 5% of parent Alphabet’s average daily worldwide turnover. The illegal behaviour dating back to 2011 includes forcing manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and its Chrome browser together with its Play Store of apps on their devices, paying them to pre-install only Google Search and blocking them from using rival Android systems. “Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine. These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits,” Vestager said. Asked whether breaking up Google would solve the issue, a call made by a number of Google foes, she said she was not sure that was the solution. “I don’t know if it will serve the purpose of more competition to have Google broken up. What would serve competition is to have more players,” Vestager told a news conference. On concerns that Google may subsequently decide to charge for using Android, Vestager said her ruling was not related to the way the company operates. “This is not a judgment on a business model. There is still a possibility to monetize its operating system. Revenue from its app store is quite substantial,” she said. The EU enforcer dismissed Google’s argument of competition from Apple, saying the iPhone maker was not a sufficient constraint because of its higher prices and switching costs for users.

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